Independent hotels and B&Bs are expected to enjoy a competitive edge on conversion over OTAs in TripAdvisor’s TripConnect service due to the trust customers have in booking direct.
Jean-Charles Lacoste, vice-president direct connect solutions, said this week’s move to open up the service to independent businesses happened after getting the go-ahead in March.
But he said it had been on the cards for up to eight years previously and was always something he had wanted to achieve. Listings went live in the UK at 2pm today.
“I have always been interested in getting independent businesses in the auction. Initially it looked like such a daunting task from our perspective.
“But I think we have executed really quickly on this. Getting that many partners to code to our API in such a short time has been tremendously challenging.
“But they have been so excited about the project they have given us priority over other things they have been working on.”
The TripConnect rollout now means that independent hotel prices, for those properties with a Business Listing, now appear alongside large OTAs and multinational chains.
TripAdvisor currently has 50,000 properties with Business Listings globally.
Owners have to bid for position on a cost-per-click basis and can manage their spend depending on where they want to appear in the list.
Lacoste said he expected individual properties to capitalise on being in the price comparison even if they are not ranked top.
“We have tried to make this as simple as possible so we can get rates and availability and they can send a deep link for each query to the hotel website.
“My personal belief is hotels have an ability to convert well on their own websites. There is trust there from the user knowing that they are on the actual hotel website.
“That generates confidence that they have got the best price. I think hotels will get really good conversion rates that should enable them to compete with OTAs.
“We have given a lot of guidance if they want to bid for first place and they can optimise for position if they don’t want to be in first place.”From the perspective of the OTAs Lacoste said they would be sanguine about increased competition for bookings from TripAdvisor.
“Traffic acquisition is a very competitive landscape,” he said. “OTAs see it as just one more player entering the auction.
“They have been bidding against owners for a long time on TripAdvisor, so it’s not a big issue.”
The auction works much like on Google with bidders set a minimum CPC which everyone has to pay. This is determined by IP address to assign a value to the origin of query.
“It’s a simple auction,” Lacoste added. “The higher you want to be the more you pay. You can set a bid and see were that places you. If you are happy that’s where you can stop.
“The platform tells you how much to bid to be in first position and you can modify that to go down.”
Lacoste said he expected the click curve to continue to favour the highest ranked positions, but that brand may have an impact.
TripConnect is part of TripAdvisor’s evolution into a meta-search player.
Its old Rate Checker pop-up service proved impossible to incorporate all hotels due to the complexity of asking each to provide a deep link.
The functionality was also cumbersome for the user who had to check each individual site to price compare.
The TripConnect API has been integrated with a large selection of Internet Booking Engines (IBEs) meaning thousands of individual properties are now able to use the service.
Despite that Lacoste said one of the major challenges had been identifying who the relevant IBEs were.
“It’s kind of an opaque segment,” he said. “It’s really fragmented, every market has a lot of IBEs.
“The challenge for us initially was to figure out who they were and to figure out whether they cover a meaningful amount of hotels.
“After that it was developing the platform itself and making sure even hotels not interested in online marketing could use it and benefit from it without having to spend much time on it.”
Ultimately Lacoste said TripConnect was meeting the demands of both property owners and consumers.
“This has been requested by hotels but of course users have been asking for it as well. We know they will often go to the hotels’ own website to check prices anyway.
“Overall it’s a good proposition for everybody.”